Four people emerge out of a meeting. Three of the group, who are supposed to be rival competitors, have a common understanding and interpretation of the meeting’s outcome. The fourth, who is the appointed arbiter for the impending competition , comes out with a diametrically opposite interpretation of what took place, after a night’s sleep.
Is this a case of amnesia, farce? Comic relief, incompetence, or, a combination of all of the above? The attempt by Ghana’s Electoral Commission to ‘nicodemously’sneak a steering committee into the management of Election 2016 and the EC’s pathetic effort to muscle and muddy its way out of it all after it has been exposed, would be great material for ‘a night of 1,000 laughs’; that is of it did not have such dire consequences for the most important decision Oman Ghana will take this year.
“There is rare unanimity amongst the country’s political parties over the necessity of a Steering Committee set up by the Electoral Commission (EC). The parties say the EC could not provide cogent answers to questions about why it found it necessary to establish such a committee to oversee the November 7 polls. The Commission was forced to suspend the operations of the controversial Committee at an Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) meeting Friday. This was barely 24 hours after its Director of Public Affairs Christian Owusu-Parry insisted the Committee had come to stay.”
The above, the latest and very succinct account by “Myjoyonline’s”, sums up the whole imbroglio very well; even as it leaves me still confused about t=whether the EC has done another U-turn about the status of the committee or not. Be as it may, it is absolutely essential, nay a necessary pr-requisite that all of the political parties who will compete in this year’s election, agree with the referee. The Electoral Commission, on the rules of engagement and more importantly, the interpretation and meaning of those rules. This imperative has absolutely nothing to do with usurping the independence of the EC to conduct Election 2016.
Notwithstanding the fact that the current brouhaha started with misgivings about the political colours of some of the institutional representation on the supposed steering committee, i would like to suggest in my take that we need to first address the very legitimacy of the said committee ahead of the issue of composition and membership.
Never mind the assertion contained in statement signed by the Public Relation Officer of the EC that the political parties’ unanimous view of the outcome of the IPAC meeting “are erroneous and should be disregarded”,, the same statement went on to concede that,,, “the Commission assured the stakeholders, after persistent calls for the Commission to reconsider the setting up of the Committee that it would meet and discuss the concerns raised and inform IPAC of its decision later|”
So has the EC suspended the steering committee, that is clearly implicit in its own statement, or has it not, as its public pasture and gesturing suggests? As far as I am concerned, the difference is the same, the El4ctoral Commission of Ghana cannot establish a steering committee, according to its own law of establishment and the true and proper meaning of a “steering committee”
Article 46 of the 4th Republican Constitution states: “Except as provided in this Constitution or in any other law not inconsistent with this Constitution, in the performance of its functions, the Electoral Commission, shall not be subject to the direction or control of any person or authority”
Now let’s juxtapose the above with the true and proper meaning of a “steering committee”, which is “a committee that decides on the priorities or order of business of an organization and manages the general course of its operations” Another definition states: “A steering committee is a committee that provides guidance, direction and control to a project within an organization”
So here we have the conundrum! A Body that our constitution says in clear and unambiguous language that it shall not be “subject to the directions or control of any persons or authority” purports to set up a steering committee of largely external composition, “that provides guidance, directions and control”
So in plain and simple language, it is out of order for either Mr Arhin or the Electoral Commission, in part or as a whole to set up a steering committee to manage the 2016 General Elections.
As a seasoned communicator, Mr. Arhin needs no reminder that the very essence of communication is that both the deliverer and recipient of a conversation have a common understanding of the conversation. There must be no wiggle room for the proverbial Ghanaian excuse of “I thought you meant…misinterpretation or personalised and jaundiced view of a conversation when dealing with such an important matter as conversations about the 2016 elections.
It is true that the convention at IPAC has been not to take or issue formal minutes of its meetings. But it is also true that there has never been such a fundamental misunderstanding of an IPAC conversation the more than a decade of its existence. That supposedly fierce competitors are for once agreed on what they heard from the conversation, suggests to me that the EC is being economical with its own account. In so far as the ECs representatives at the meeting could not answer the fundamental question of the purpose and modus operandi of the so-called steering committee, it has not thought through the matter.
The EC must go back to square one and do the following :1)scrap the steering committee; 2) establish an Election Implementation Advisory Committee(EIAC) which will bring all the statutory bodies which are expected to play roles that would assist the EC to carry out a successful election. This body will have the same status as IPAC, provide suggestion to the EC without they being mandatory; 3) Determine the composition of the EIAC by setting out the need and role of each constituent institution on the body: and, 4) to state without ambiguity that overt membership or active participation in politics automatically disbars anybody from membership of the EIAC, no matter the person’s position and presumed relevance to the work of the EIAC
I am of the view that the political parties must insist on the above conditions and more from the EC as it seeks to exercise its right to establish any committee to assist its management of Election 2016. If necessary, the parties must mount a legal challenge on the legality of establishing a steering committee in the true and proper meaning of ‘steering committee’
The EC must always act and be seen to be acting independently and impartially in consonance with its constitutional responsibilities and the true and inconvertible meanings and understanding of the meanings and definitions of the words they use to describe their intent.
Charles Wereko-Brobby (Dr)
Chief Policy Analyst, Ghana Institute of Public Policy Options (GIPPO)
Email: [email protected]